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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Middle East crisis

Moscow's pivot to Asia has yielded mixed results this year

Russia retaliates and Turkey will be hit hard

P3

P 4-5

TASS

Russia turns to Asia REUTERS

This supplement is sponsored by Rossiyskaya Gazeta, which takes sole responsibility for its contents and is wholly independent of Fairfax Media. The supplement did not involve Fairfax Media editorial staff in its production.

Distributed with The Age. Other distribution partners include: The International New York Times, The Daily Telegraph, Le Figaro, El Pais, Mainichi Shimbun. See the full list at page 6.

Grandfather Frost brings new hope for the New Year RUSSIA HAS BUILT ITS OWN TRADITIONS FOR ITS MOST IMPORTANT PUBLIC HOLIDAY

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ENGAGING THE WEST GOING EASTWARD Read, watch and listen to RBTH’s weekly analytical program, featuring three of the most high-profile recent developments in international affairs.

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ECONOMICS

RUSLAN SHAMUKOV / TASS

Growth ends the recession

GETTY IMAGES

Moscow's financial world has been shaken by a recession since Black Tuesday, December, 2014.

With declining oil prices, economic sanctions and the rouble almost halving in value, many believed that this year Russia would see an economic crisis like it did in 1998. But those fears weren’t rea-

is defined, is over,” Alexei Ulyukayev, Russia’s Minister of Economic Development, announced at a meeting with European diplomats in Moscow last month. And foreign analysts agree.

lised. The economy took a battering and real incomes suffered, but as the year draws to a close, growth is slowly picking up. “Quarterly evaluations show that the recession, as it

POLITICAL CORRECTNESS

FROM PERSONAL ARCHIVES

The number plate PUTIN has been registered in Victoria.

Russia seeks to raise $1 billion from yuan bonds

tes that contain content relating to political, religious or inflammatory topics.” The RMS spokesperson did not explain what the political reasons for refusing PUTIN were. However, the RMS said other restricted number plates included JIHAD, HITLER, POPE and OSAMA. When asked whether other politicians’ names would also be rejected, the RMS did not respond. RBTH also had no response from myPlates. Kozmin, a Russian-Australian of Cossack descent and a passionate supporter of President Vladimir Putin, is angry about the decision. He told RBTH that the fact that the same personalised plate had previously been issued in Victoria showed that the decision was likely to be a result of prejudice in Australia’s current political climate.

Australia's Nasir Sobhani takes a selfie with a homeless man after giving him a haircut at a shelter in St Petersburg. RBTH.COM/547715

YURI SMITYUK / TASS

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FINANCE

'PUTIN' number plate rejected An application for the personalised number plate PUTIN has been rejected in New South Wales “for political reasons”,a spokesperson from Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) told RBTH. Bondi resident Artyem Kozmin received a letter last month from the company myPlates, which said that his application for the plate had been refused on the basis that it would not be appropriate. “MyPlates and the RMS reserves the right to decline to issue or withdraw from issue any number plate which is considered to be offensive or in bad taste,” the letter said. “This includes number pla-

The credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s (S&P) reported 0.5 per cent growth in the third quarter, after almost four quarters of decline, and predicted that growth would continue. Russian analysts remain cautious, warning that the crisis isn’t over and that there is a long road ahead before the economy gets back to where it was in the late 2000s. Currency hardships began in December 2014, the second Black Tuesday in the country’s history, when the rouble fell 41 per cent against the dollar and 34 per cent against the euro. The Central Bank of Russia, the financial regulator, reacted quickly – and at the time controversially – by raising its key interest rate from 10.5 to 17 per cent, which triggered outrage from politicians and public figures.

Russia is looking to raise $US1 billion in yuan-denominated sovereign bonds, The Financial Times has reported. The bonds would set a benchmark interest rate in yuan (or renminbi) for the Russian government and subsequently for corporate issuers, Denis Shulakov, head of capital markets at Gazprombank, which is providing informal assistance in preparing the issue, told the paper. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently made the yuan a world reserve currency by including it in its Special Drawing Rights basket.

Surfers in Vladivostok have braved plunging temperatures and near-freezing waters to launch the winter season. RBTH.COM/547495

RUSSIAN CULTURAL EVENTS DOWN UNDER THE NUTCRACKER QUEENSLAND BALLET QPAC, BRISBANE DEC 11 – DEC 23

In the lead-up to Christmas, Queensland Ballet will be performing the much-loved children's favourite The Nutcracker. Rich and imaginative sets and costumes will bring Tchaikovsky's evocative music alive, making for a wondrous wintry introduction to the festive season. › qpac.com.au/event/QB_ Nutcracker_15.aspx

RUSSIAN CIRCUS EL’ CIRCO BLANC SLIDE, OXFORD ST SYDNEY

ADVENTURE

FIDDLER ON THE ROOF PRINCESS AND CAPITOL THEATRES MELBOURNE AND SYDNEY FROM DEC 29, MELBOURNE FROM 24 MARCH, SYDNEY

This charming Broadway musical, with music by Jerry Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, will play for six-week seasons in Melbourne and Sydney, starting this month. Fiddler on the Roof follows the life of a Jewish family in Imperial Russia in 1905, as they struggle to maintain their identity and traditional way of life in a time of change. It is known for its humour, irony, passion and warmth. › fiddlerontherooftour.com/

DEC 20 – DEC 21

WA launch for world solo balloon flight rence in Moscow.“It helps me that the training takes several years, and that helps me relax a little.” Konyukhov has nurtured the idea of a balloon flight for 20 years, inspired apparently by two successful round-the-world flights – by Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones in 1999 and then Fossett alone in 2002. Konyukhov hopes to achieve his goal on his first attempt

© RAMIL SITDIKOV / RIA NOVOSTI

Russian traveller Fyodor Konyukhov, who has conquered both North and South poles and the seven highest peaks in the world, has announced he plans to break the record set by American adventurer Steve Fossett, the first person to fly solo non-stop around the world in a balloon. “I have fear about every trip, I haven’t lost that feeling, and that’s good,”Konyukhov said at a recent press confe-

– something his predecessors failed to do. His solo flight on a balloon made by the British company Cameron Balloons is scheduled to begin in Western Australia in June next year. “It will fly on Russian helium,” Konyukhov said. According to calculations, the flight will last between 13 and 15 days at an altitude of 11,000 metres, with a maximum speed of 300 km/h.

This snow-themed circus performance offers some cool relief to Sydneysiders in midsummer. Enjoy a five-course Russianinspired degustation, crafted to bring the performance to life through scent and taste, while the circus cast seduce and soar above the audience, performing live vocals, aerial silks and straps, vaudeville juggling, mime, contortion and acrobatics. › slide.com.au/shows/ elcircoblanc/#144436781708076ab318b-7d60/

NATASHA MOROZOVA IN CONCERT GOETHE INSTITUTE WOOLLAHRA, SYDNEY FEB 7

Russian-Australian Natasha Morozova has a background in Russian folk, classical and sacred music, and is known for bringing these influences into her rich and authentic vocal performances. › trybooking.com/ 160976

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US EASES SANCTIONS ON RUSSIAN ARMS EXPORTER rbth.com/548709

Geopolitics Moscow's focus on Asia has yielded stronger ties with some ASEAN nations and China

IN BRIEF

Asia pivot has mixed results

First combined military drills in Vietnam

Russia’s strategic and economic push towards Asia has achieved mixed results this year, but its ties with China, in particular, are now stronger.

Russia and Vietnam will hold joint military exercises on Vietnamese territory for the first time next year, a spokesman for Russia’s Eastern Military District announced last month, according to Sputnik News. A district stationed in Russia’s Amur region will take part, it was stated.

AJAY KALAMAKARAN RBTH

Wider Asian partnership Putin has called for a wider economic partnership between the EAEU, ASEAN and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). “Together, our states make up nearly a third of the glob-

China supports Syria campaign

EPA/VOSTOCK-PHOTO

AP

“When it comes to Asia, the biggest strategic economic gains came to Russia from the ASEAN region,” says Agosh Suharpanto, a foreign affairs analyst and former Indonesian diplomat, based in Jakarta.“There was a free trade pact signed between the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and Vietnam, and talks are on for a similar agreement with Thailand and Singapore as well.” Suharpanto adds that Russia may be looking at a wider free trade pact between the EAEU and ASEAN but that may not come to fruition, as many ASEAN countries are joining the US-backed TransPacific Partnership (TPP). Russia has also made a concerted effort to reach out to ASEAN countries politically. In November, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev became the first senior Russian leader to visit Cambodia in nearly 30 years. The two countries signed a host of agreements, including a memorandum of understanding to cooperate in the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Although Russia’s relationship with Malaysia was strained by Moscow’s refusal to allow a United Nations Security Council inquiry into the July 2014 shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH-17, Moscow and Putrajaya set up a Joint Commission for Economic, Scientific, Technical and Cultural Cooperation. “It’s understood that Russia-Malaysia ties will continue to develop despite there not being common ground on MH-17,” Shuarpanto says.

Analysts say Russia will push ahead with its pivot to Asia in 2016, in recognition of the region's economic importance. al economy in terms of purchasing power parity,” Putin said during his annual state of the nation address on December 3. “Such a partnership could initially focus on protecting investments, streamlining procedures for the cross-border movement of goods, joint development of technical standards for next-generation technology products,and the mutual provision of access to markets for services and capital.” Analysts say there is potential for such a partnership but that there would be a lot of competing interests. “The elephant in the room is the United States,” says Doris Tung, a political analyst based in Hong Kong. “Any partnership between these three groupings would be seen as an economic threat to the US, as well as to Washington’s Asian initiatives.” Tung adds that many ASEAN countries which have maritime territorial disputes with China and are wary of Chinese economic domination would be cautious about such a partnership.

Sino-Russian ties build Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping met four times in 2015, a year that witnessed a flurry of political and defence engagement between the countries. “China appreciates the fact that Russia has largely stayed neutral in the South China Sea maritime disputes,” Tung says. “The focus of the China-Russia relationship has been on common strategies at multilateral forums such as BRICS, APEC and the G20.” Moscow and Beijing are eager to push for an alternative economic world order. The New Development Bank, set up by the BRICS members, began operations this year, along with the Chinainitiated Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), in which Russia is the thirdlargest shareholder. Russia and China agreed to expand the SCO to include India and Pakistan as full members, a move which required compromise from both countries, given Moscow’s close ties to Delhi, and Beijing’s strategic

relationship with Islamabad. Even though bilateral trade between Russia and China fell by a third this year, this was more a reflection of the economic slowdown in both countries. They continued to step up defence ties in 2015. In November, China agreed to buy 24 Sukhoi Su-35 aircraft from Russia for $US2 billion. Beijing is the first foreign buyer of these multipurpose fighter jets.

Relations with Tokyo and Canberra cool Russia’s ties with Japan and Australia, two of the biggest US allies in the Asia-Pacific region, continued to be strained. Both countries have extended sanctions against Russia for its alleged support of separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine. Toeing Washington’s line, Canberra continues to blame Moscow for the shooting down of MH-17, although since Malcolm Turnbull came to power the world hasn’t seen the strident anti-Russian rhetoric that gained international attention when Tony

Abbott was prime minister. The bone of contention between Russia and Japan remains the Southern Kuril Island territorial dispute. The two countries have technically remained in a state of conflict over these territories since World War II. Putin’s visit to Japan this year was indefinitely postponed over the lack of progress in the dispute. “The problem is that Japan and Russia have different interpretations of compromise on the dispute,” says Yu Tanaka, a historian based in Sapporo, Japan.“No government in Japan would be able to survive the backlash if it accepted just two of the four islands that have been claimed by Tokyo.” Tanaka adds that the countries are keen to develop economic ties despite the dispute. “Japan also sees Russia as a key to solving the North Korean problem,”he says.“Russia and China are countries that can bring the North Koreans back to the negotiating table and start the sixparty talks.”

Russia’s anti-terrorist operation in Syria is in line with international law, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying was cited by TASS as saying earlier this month. “We’ve expressed our support for Russia before and noted that Russia’s fight against terrorist organisations in Syria is at the invitation of the country’s government,”the report quoted Chunying as saying.

South Korea president asks Putin to help South Korean President Park Geun-hye asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to help revive the sixparty dialogue on North Korea’s nuclear disarmament, The Korea Herald reported on December 2. “I’m asking for Russia’s active role in making North Korea face reality and have a rethink on its nuclear problem in order to resume meaningful talks on (North Korea’s) denuclearisation,” Geun-hye said, according to the newspaper. The leaders met on the sidelines of the recent COP21 UN Climate Change Conference in Paris.

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Middle East

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RUSSIA AND CHINA ALIGN STRATEGIC INTERESTS rbth.com/548379

Sanctions Estimates of losses from Russia's reprisal vary but there is agreement that the consequences will be serious

Trade bans will hit Turkey hard Russia's response to Turkey's downing of the Russian Su-24 aircraft will have a substantial impact on the Turkish economy.

TurkishVice Premier Mehmet Simsek has estimated Ankara’s losses from its current tensions with Russia at $US9 billion a year. He predicted that in the worst-case scenario, Russian sanctions could cost Turkey 0.4 per cent of its GDP, and said that this year Turkish exports to Russia had already dropped by 30-40 per cent. The number of Russian tourists in Turkey has also fallen drastically (by 600,000 people), as has the number of construction projects being carried out by Turkish companies in Russia. “Russia has always been an important partner to us, and we do not want conflicts with it,” Simsek said in an interview with the Russian TV channel NT. “From the very first days, we developed ways of tackling the crisis, all our sectors are ready for it.” However, this may be an underestimate. According to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Russian sanctions may slow Turkey’s economic growth by 0.3-0.7 per cent in 2016. Other experts estimate Turkish losses at more than twice that amount. For example, parliamentarians from the Turkish Republican People’s Party say that in total Turkey may lose some $US20 billion, or 3 per cent of its GDP, as a result of Russian sanctions. This includes

AP

OLGA SAMOFALOVA VZGLYAD

Turkey's economy could be seriously affected if Russia decides to expand sanctions beyond fruit and vegetable imports.

"Overall lossess for the Turkish economy will be closer to $US20 billion," said Georgy Vashchenko Russia might introduce sanctions against Turkey across more sectors

$US6 billion in revenues from Turkish exports to Russia, $US7 billion in revenues generated by Russian tourists and $US6 billion in revenues from shuttle trade, according to parliamentarian Cetin Osman Budak, head of the Antalya Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as quoted by the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News. This estimate may be more accurate. The loss of Russian tourists alone will cost Turkey $US10 billion, since this

is what Turkey itself estimated its revenues from Russian tourists to be. Antalya alone will lose $US6 billion, with $US500 million being lost in the agricultural sector, according to a former mayor of Antalya, parliamentarian Mustafa Akaydin. According to official estimates, however, the Turkish tourist sector will lose just $US3.5 billion. “Overall, losses for the Turkish economy will be closer to $US20 billion,” said Georgy Vashchenko from the

Freedom Finance investment company.“For a long time, it will be impossible to recover losses from the drop in tourist flows, $US6-8 billion a year, and from exports, a total of more than $US10 billion.” Furthermore, Vashchenko said, Turkey’s losses may increase if the situation in the Turkish economy deteriorates. In the meantime, it cannot be ruled out that Russia may introduce sanctions against Turkey across more sectors. Russia has the capacity to

bring in further restrictions which could hit the Turkish economy badly without major harm to Russian markets. For example, Raiffeisenbank analysts point out,Turkish exports to Russia also include clothes and footwear (worth $US1 billion in 2014; 15.1 per cent of imports from Turkey and about 7 per cent of all clothes and footwear imports into Russia); land transport (11.5 per cent of imports are from Turkey) and machinery and white goods (11.2 per cent of imports are from Turkey). New economic sanctions against Turkey or/ and a deterioration in the Turkish economy may therefore result in GDP losses of more than 3 per cent. Also, losses from unrealised projects such as the Turkish Stream gas pipeline, the Akkuyu nuclear power plant and various Turkish construction projects in Russia have not been included in these figures. Ankara itself had been stalling on the signing of documents for the Turkish Stream project in the hope of securing better terms. As a result, Russia has already halved the number of planned lines of the pipeline from four to two. And while the decision to scrap Turkish Stream frustrates Russia’s aims of avoiding gas transit through Ukraine, it may result in still more serious consequences for Ankara. The first line of the prospective gas pipeline was meant to meet Turkey’s own gas requirements. Currently Turkey receives some 14 billion cubic metres of gas from Russia via Ukraine. However, the term of the agreement between Russia and Ukraine expires in 2019, and Turkish gas supplies could be affected if a new agreement isn’t signed.

Analysis President's annual address seen as 'quite conciliatory' towards the West CO N V E RT I N G M O N O LO G U E S I N TO D I A LO G U E

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Putintalkstoughon terror and Turkey RBTH spoke to various analysts about the Russian president's recent annual address, in which he was more conciliatory towards the West than was expected. YEKATERINA SINELSCHIKOVA RBTH

Against the backdrop of Moscow’s military operation in Syria, terrorist attacks in Paris and on the Russian airliner in Egypt and the incident of the Russian Su-24 bomber being shot down by Turkey on the Syrian border, it was expected that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annual address to the Federal Assembly on December 3 would be primarily focused on international security.

And in some ways, it was. In relation to Turkey’s recent actions, Putin said that he would not forget what he called“this act of complicity in terrorism”and added that Ankara “will regret more than once what it did”. But that was the only military rhetoric in his speech.

Speech presaged further actions against Turkey “The line ‘this won’t be limited just to tomatoes’ [Putin was referring to the recently introduced ban on the import of fruit and vegetables from Turkey to Russia] are keywords in the address,” said Mikhail Remizov, president of the National Strategy Institute.

In his view, this means that Moscow is set on pursuing a serious and ongoing response to Turkey’s actions. But apart from his condemnations of Ankara, Putin’s other foreign policy points were notable for their lack of aggression. “There was a statement about seeking a broad coalition in the fight against terrorism, especially with Western powers,”notedYekaterina Schulmann, a political scientist and associate professor at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration. She described the speech as quite conciliatory considering the current situation and also pointed out that “there were several declarations during the address that Russia would be willing to cooperate, to participate in global markets and in economic and international organisations”.

Yevgeny Minchenko, director of the Moscow-based International Institute of Political Expertise, also noted that on this occasion there was not even a hint of antiWestern rhetoric in Putin’s words on foreign policy. All of his “critical arrows” in this year's address were directed against terrorists and Turkey, he said. Putin also discussed his domestic political agenda at some length. And while it could almost be described as liberal, it was hardly groundbreaking, and there was nothing revolutionary or unexpected. To read the full version, go to the link below or scan the adjacent image. Read the full verstion rbth.com/546821


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International relations The tension between Russia and Turkey could have a far-reaching impact on the Russian military

Crisis threatens a long history of cooperation Following a long history of strategic and military ties, Russia has terminated all cooperation with Turkey's armed forces.

How Russia is protecting its military base in Syria

YEKATERINA ZGIROVSKAYA GAZETA.RU

Inviolability of the Turkish Straits

ALYONA REPKINA

Relations between Russia and Turkey have deteriorated radically since November 24, when a Turkish F-16 fighter jet shot down a Russian Su-24 bomber for allegedly having crossed the SyrianTurkish border. Following the incident, Russian President Vladimir Putin refused to receive phone calls from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Moscow introduced new visa regulations for Turkish citizens and a package of economic sanctions against Ankara. The day the fighter was shot down, Lieutenant General Sergei Rutskoi from the General Command stated that military contacts with Turkey would be terminated, with Moscow recalling its navy representative responsible for coordinating the activities of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet and the Turkish Navy. The hotline between the two countries aimed at preventing air incidents during anti-terrorist operations has also been turned off.

Ataturk, asked Soviet Russia to help him and established diplomatic relations. The Soviet government, which at that time was in the throes of civil war, gave the Turkish government 10 million gold roubles and sent military advisers, weapons and technology to Turkey. Post-Soviet Russia began its cooperation with Turkey in 1992 by selling Ankara weapons worth about $US100 million, including armoured personnel carriers, multi-purpose helicopters, Kalashnik-

A century of cooperation Russian-Turkish cooperation began almost a century ago in 1920, when the founder of the Turkish Republic, Kemal

ov machineguns and sub-machine guns, Dragunov rifles, multiple rocket launchers and more. And even today Russia provides maintenance services for this equipment. The two countries’ militaries have worked together and carried out joint exercises. Russia and Turkey even created a joint Black Sea navy called BlackSeaFor, which was tasked with conducting search and reconnaissance operations and monitoring environmental issues in the region.

Q&A

RBTH: Were you prepared for what you saw in Syria? SH: We knew we were going to a war zone. War isn’t what you see on TV. It’s tragedy.What I didn’t expect was that people would shoot at journalists or that we’d end up within a whisker of death. How do Syrians feel about the Russianmilitarypresencethere?

© RIA NOVOSTI

Journalists shelled in Syria A day before the Turkish Air Force shot down a Russian Su-24 fighter jet on November 24, three Russian journalists were wounded in Syria when their car was shelled while they were on assignment. One of the three, RT Arabic TV correspondent Sargon Hadaya, talked to RBTH about what he saw in three weeks in Syria.

itiative, refused to support it and there was no general statement about it, which NATO usually provides,” he said. “Stoltenberg (NATO Secretary General) spoke for himself, which means that NATO’s European members are not burning with desire to help Turkey”. According to Ivashov, Germany and France are unlikely to get involved in the development of the RussianTurkish conflict. France has even begun a rapprochement with Russia after the Turkish attack on the Su-24. “Now Russia just has to increase consultations with European countries in a bilateral format,” Ivashov said.

To read the interview in full, scan the code

or use this link rbth.com/548279

In Latakia, in Homs, in Tartus, where we were, people were happy and grateful. But after five years of war, whatever happiness Russia’s arrival might have brought, grief will remain; everywhere people have been killed. Russia’s presence will not bring back the children who

NATO unlikely to intervene According to Lieutenant General Leonid Ivashov, president of the Moscowbased Academy of Geopolitical Problems, Russia need not fear Turkey asking NATO to deploy additional anti-aircraft defence systems on its territory or NATO giving Turkey military support, even if tensions do continue to rise. “NATO’s last council on an ambassadorial level, which was convened on Turkey’s in-

have been killed on both sides of the conflict. Not all oppositionists are terrorists, as the Russian Foreign Ministry and the Russian president have often said they are. Why did you decide to return to Moscow? Our photographs published in the Russia media were posted on one of the sites of the“Syrian moderate opposition”with the inscription: “Wounded Russian journalists during Russian aggression campaign against the Syrian people”. It was followed by:“They didn’t die. We’ll finish them off.” Our faces had become recognisable. Threats towards journalists were increasing.We met and decided it would be best not to risk our lives or the lives of our colleagues, since we attracted attention not only to ourselves but to the entire group. The second reason is that our doctors in Syria weren’t able to remove a piece of shrapnel. I was operated on in a hospital in Moscow.

However, an interruption to the cooperation with the Turkish military has implications for the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits in the Black Sea. Nations wishing to use the straits, which link the Black Sea and the Mediterranean and are entirely in Turkish territory, are required to follow the Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits. The convention, signed on July 20, 1936 in the Swiss town of Montreux, is regularly extended. The current extension has a duration of 20 years. In peaceful times the convention limits the passage of military ships belonging to non-Black Sea countries through the straits. When entering the waters, ships are limited to a weight of 15,000 tonnes. As well, there are limits on the collective tonnage of vessels present in the Black Sea: 30,000 tonnes for all nonBlack Sea countries together. There is also a limit on the

time that a ship can spend in the waters: three weeks. In many cases countries with Black Sea coastlines are free to send their submarines through the straits, as well as large ships without a weight limit, as long as they abide by certain conditions stipulated in the convention, the responsibility for which is maintained by Turkey. If Turkey finds itself at war or threatened by war, it has the right to permit or forbid any military vessels passing through the straits. If Turkey is not participating in the war, then the straits will be closed to ships belonging to the warring countries. “The conditions of maritime navigation through the Black Sea straits are regulated by international law, by the Montreux Convention, and obviously here we count on the constancy of the norms concerning free navigation through the Black Sea straits,” said Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov on November 27. According to Lieutenant General Yevgeny Buzhinsky, former head of the international treaty directorate at the Russian Defence Ministry, Turkey is “vigilant about the implementation of the Montreux Convention”. “I don’t think that Turkey, even in these tense conditions with Russia, will want to violate the Montreux Convention, because if Turkey begins violating it, it will be very difficult to restore it,” he said. “We can ask the question: can Turkey close the straits to Russia? Theoretically, yes. “But to do so, it must declare war on Russia, since the Montreux Convention states that only in the event of war can Turkey close the straits.” Read the full version rbth.com/545995

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Opinion

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FALLOUT FROM CRISIS WILL BE HARD TO REPAIR Vladimir Avatkov ACADEMIC

ays after Turkey brought down a Russian bomber, Russia revoked its visa-free regime with Turkey and signed a decree imposing immediate economic sanctions against Ankara. In the meantime, the media was speculating whether Russian PresidentVladimir Putin was going to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the COP 21 UN Climate Summit in Paris. But he didn’t. Turkey’s shooting down of the Russian Su-24 bomber over Syria on November 24 has brought Russian-Turkish relations to their lowest point since the Cuban missile crisis in the early 1960s. The incident, which led to the deaths of a Russian pilot and marine, has caused serious damage to the relationship between the two countries. Turkey is now trapped because its actions could be presented by its opponents as providing support to the very groups that the Russian Air Force is fighting in Syria. Turkey’s actions not only damaged the Russian-Turkish relationship, it also undermined the newly emerging dialogue which has been seeking to bring Russia, the US and the EU together to fight terrorism in the region. Obviously, Turkey has its own grievances.These include earlier violations of Turkish airspace; Russia’s bombing of the oil sites of the Islamic State (IS), which according to some sources belong to circles close to the Turkish political establishment; and Russia hindering Turkey’s ambitions to benefit from bringing order to neighbouring countries such as Syria. Recently, Ankara’s list of reasons for confronting Russia has grown even longer: the Russian Air Force is operating in northern Syria, which is occupied by Syrian Turkmen and is helping Kurds in their movement west.

D

DMITRY DIVIN

TURKEY: WHAT HAPPENS NOW? Alexey Chesnakov ANALYST

ince Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree for economic sanctions against Turkey, the crisis in RussianTurkish relations triggered by the November 24 shootingdown of a Russian military aircraft has turned into a protracted standoff. Putin’s refusal to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the COP21 climate summit in Paris, and his refusal to take Erdogan’s phone calls, suggest that Moscow intends to get more from Ankara than just apologies. Where do we go from here?

S

Escalation Escalation cannot be excluded as long as there is the chance of clashes between Russia and Turkey in the Syrian-Turkish border zone. This is possible if Ankara continues to support Syria’s Turkmens and Russia continues its air strikes on the Turkmens and other Turkish allies in the Syrian opposition forces. Any number of incidents could lead to unpredictable military consequences.

Political reasons for escalation could be if either side took action to sharply alter the current balance of mutual interests; for example, if the Bosporus was closed to Russian ships.

A warming of relations

There could be a freeze in relations if the two countries maintain their positions and continue with strong politi-

Ankara and Moscow could improve their relationship, perhaps with the assistance of a closely connected country acting as a mediator – for example, Azerbaijan or Kazakhstan. Turkey and Russia might agree on regular contact, with a view to gradually restoring communications between the military and diplomatic agen-

Turkey would need to find a new language to replace its minimalistic "regrets" for what transpired

After the hardline rhetoric and the sanctions, backing down now would be seen as weak

cal rhetoric but hold back from actions that could exacerbate the situation. One possible scenario could be Russia suspending flights along the Turkish-Syrian border and Ankara not supporting the Syrian Turkmens and closing the border to prevent the entry of Islamic State (IS) militants, weapons, ammunition and contraband. In diplomacy, a freeze would look like both sides not imposing further sanctions on one another.

cies, at least. Existing sanctions could also be lifted. For the realisation of this scenario, Turkey would need to find a new language to replace its minimalistic “regrets” for what transpired.

A freeze in relations

A restoration of relations This might require a highlevel meeting between Putin and Erdogan. Moscow might then announce the repeal of sanctions and the two sides could potentially cooperate in Syria across a spectrum of

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military and political areas. One essential condition would be a high level of trust between the sides, backed up by real mechanisms of cooperation between Russia and NATO.

The most likely scenario Further escalation would disadvantage both sides. For Russia, a country in economic crisis, escalation would put more strain on the national budget. There could potentially be no coalition in Syria and NATO members might be forced to support Turkey. For Ankara, escalation would also be a dead end – displeasure in Europe about the situation would probably only increase. A warming of relations is not likely any time soon, though. After the hardline rhetoric and the sanctions, backing down now would be seen as weak. The differences between Moscow and Ankara are fundamental and stem from their views on the Syrian conflict. Keeping Syrian President Bashar Assad in power is a priority for the Kremlin while his removal is a priority for Ankara. So total restoration of relations is unlikely. On the other hand, despite the rhetoric, little would be gained from not compromising or from Russia fighting a war on two sides: IS on one and Turkey on the other. Alexey Chesnakov is a Russian political scientist and director of the Centre for Current Politics (CPC).

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The Kurds moving west could enable Kurdish antiIS forces to surround the militants and prevent them from entering Turkey. Turkish authorities might have taken these factors into consideration when they made the decision to use force on November 24. But before then, Russia had been working hard to build a mutually beneficial economic partnership with Turkey. Cooperation should not have been limited to the economic realm, however. It should have encompassed geopolitics and security – two

Erdogan has grown weak and most likely won't be able to contain Turkey's hawks areas which historically have been problematic for the two countries. Second, it was a mistake for Russia to rely exclusively on Turkey’s current leadership, which could always have been subject to change. It should have engaged with all of Turkey’s political forces. Despite these mistakes, it’s now time to look forward. Erdogan has grown weak and will most likely not be able to contain Turkey’s hawks, including the Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, who is pushing the idea of rebuilding the Turkish Ottoman Empire. Russia, a major world power, has de facto suffered an act of aggression. Unfortunately, as a result, regardless of Moscow’s response the region, and the world on the whole, is unlikely to become any more stable. Vladimir Avatkov is a scholar of Turkish studies who teaches at the Military and Middle and Near East Languages faculties at Russia’s MGIMO.

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Celebrations Yolka concerts still popular with children

Soviet New Year propaganda event is now a tradition ALEXEI BELYAKOV SPECIAL TO RBTH

At the end of the 1920s, because of an unofficial ban on religion, Russians stopped celebrating Christmas (at least officially). But in 1935, Christmas was replaced by another winter holiday: New Year. Without much thought, the decision was made to make the Christmas tree the official symbol for New Year. From then on, the tree symbolised winter, while the star on the tree went from being the Star of Bethlehem to a symbol of the Soviet Union, or a cousin, perhaps, of the ruby stars that crown the Kremlin towers. At that time, the Soviet authorities were trying to promote a culture of the masses, and this transformed what was traditionally a family holiday into a public holiday. National celebrations were organised for Soviet adults in houses of culture and in public squares. Meanwhile, children gathered at stadiums, day-care centres and even military grounds to celebrate yolkas – holiday concerts where they watched performances, took part in competitions and were given gifts. Thanks to these shows, New Year became a favourite holiday for Soviet children.

Yolka concert themes The scripts of the yolka concerts were imbued with shortterm ideological goals and aimed to express the achievements of the USSR in a way that was accessible to children. The performances were predictable, and usually went

something like this: the forces of evil try to prevent children from celebrating New Year but the forces of good overcome them, just before the clock strikes midnight. The forces of good included Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost) and his helpers, while the evil entourage were often characters from fairytales and folklore, including Bag of Bones or Baba Yaga.

Yolkas at the Kremlin The Kremlin yolka, held at the Moscow Kremlin’s Palace of Congresses, was the most coveted children’s New Year’s Eve party in the Soviet Union. Only the best students and the children of well-connected parents, such as party members, were invited. Children who managed to get an invitation would brag to their classmates about the amazing gifts and colourful concert long after the event.

An interesting feature of the Kremlin yolka was that parents were not allowed to attend. On entry to the Palace, the children were greeted by clowns and animal characters and escorted to the coat check, before being led in dances – a tradition that has been preserved to this day. After the show, the children were paraded around like luggage on an airport carousel as their parents picked them out from the crowd outside the Palace.

Yolkas today Religion is back in favour in Russia today, but yolkas remain secular celebrations. Orthodox Christmas is celebrated on January 7, while shows for children begin at the end of December. Yolka concerts still attract big turnouts and there are a range of concerts to suit different budgets and tastes. There are even yolkas on ice.

GRUGORY SYSOEV / TASS

Yolka concerts began in the 1930s, melding elements of Christmas traditions and Soviet propaganda. Today this secular celebration is intrinsic to the festive season.

Holidays New Year's Eve celebrations in Russia are not unlike traditional Christmases in Europe

How to have a NYE Russian style New Year's Eve is the most important holiday of the Russian calendar, and Russia has its own traditions around this celebration.

Some people attend events at clubs and venues, which usually start some time after midnight.

New Year trees JOE CRESCENTE SPECIAL TO RBTH

A family affair In Russia, New Year’s Eve is foremost a family holiday, and celebrations begin at home with relatives and or close friends. Traditionally a big meal is prepared and toasts are made to farewell the passing year. After midnight, many families go for a walk to their local central square.

Christmas trees were banned in Russia after the 1917 revolution as religious symbols, but were reintroduced in 1935 and called novogodnaya yolka (New Year tree). These days, yolkas tend to be small and made of plastic, but they are still an essential part of the New Year tradition. Large yolkas are often visited when people take their New Year walks.

Grandfather Frost Ded Moroz, or Grandfather Frost, is Santa’s Russian cousin, although unlike Santa, Ded Moroz isn’t afraid to show his face. Ded Moroz is known for stopping by New Year parties to deliver presents in person. He is also often accompanied by his granddaughter Snegurochka (the Snow Maiden).

New Year TV TV is a big thing in Russia on New Year’s Eve. In the lead-up to midnight, there are various holiday staples that are shown every year. The most famous of these is

the classic The Irony of Fate or With a Little Steam (1975), a romantic comedy and musical about Zhenya and Nadya, a middle-aged pair who get together at NewYear, largely because of Zhenya’s drunkenness, but also because of the uniformity of aspects of Soviet life. But come midnight, the whole nation tunes in to hear the Presidential address, a tradition which dates back to Soviet times. After the address, the clock tower on Red Square chimes, extravagant fireworks kick off and the New Year officially begins.

mas in Europe. Traditional foods include beef aspic, served with horseradish, a variety of salads smothered with mayonnaise and dill and red caviar served on buttered bread. Mandarins also adorn the tables, a tradition which supposedly began in the reign of Tsar Nicholas II. And no New Year would be complete without Sovietskoye Shampanskoe (Soviet champagne). Scan the QR code to read the full version of the article

New Year's fare New Year’s Eve is a big eating and drinking event in Russia, comparable to Christ-

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Christmas Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker masterpiece provides inspiration for magical sweets, notably sugar plum treats

Christmas delights inspired by ballet In search of Russian Christmas sweets and cakes, food writer Jennifer Eremeeva finds inspiration in a ballet synonymous with the holiday season.

An assortment of Christmas cup cakes that would sit nicely in the evocative world of The Nutcracker, including red velvet, candy cane, and Guinness gingerbread cakes. Don't forget tangerine-flavoured icing, to add some zing.

JENNIFER EREMEEVA SPECIAL TO RBTH

Is there anything more holiday mood-enhancing than the familiar strains of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker? If there is, I haven’t encountered it. The strong downbeat followed by the robust and festive march is a clarion call to trim the tree, stuff the stockings and sift the dry ingredients. And in honour of Christmas, we are laying on a sugary smorgasbord of Nutcracker-themed confectionery. Food is the candy cane stripe that runs through the ballet: from the moment the curtain rises, we are plunged into a world of expansive and lavish Russian holiday entertaining. In the second act we join Clara/Maria and Prince Johann in the magical Kingdom of Sweets, where we meet dancers impersonating flavours such as ginger, candy canes, chocolate, coffee, marzipan and, of course, the sugar plum. Americans associate The Nutcracker with George Balanchine, who co-founded the New York City Ballet and gave us one of the most famous screen versions of The Nutcracker (1993), starring Darci Kistler as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Macaulay Culkin as the Nutcracker. Balanchine’s staging remains the template for all Western interpretations of Tchaikovsky’s beloved Christmas ballet, but his inspiration was firmly rooted in Russia. Born Georgi Melitonovich Balanchivadze in St Petersburg in 1904, Balanchine was trained as a dancer at the prestigious Imperial Ballet School. As a child, he was fascinated by the trays of sweets on display in the opulent windows ofYeliseyev’s food store on St Petersburg’s Nevsky Prospekt. This Petersburg landmark survived the Com-

munist era and is now once again offering visitors tempting bonbons: chocolate almonds, marzipan and glistening sugar atop syrupy candied fruit. On a recent visit to St Petersburg, I retraced Balanchine’s steps from the Imperial Ballet School on Rossi Street, through Ostrovsky Square and across the Prospekt to Yeliseyev’s. Seated on the perimeter of the massive pineapple which graces the centre of the store, I sipped a welcome cup of Yeliseyev’s signature tea blend, indulged in a sliver of rich chocolate torte and treated myself to the feast for the eyes that the confectionery cases offer. Then I understood what Balanchine was striving for in his staging of The Nutcracker: sweets both cosy and comfortable but also otherworldly and magical.

RECIPE

So with all of these visions of sugar plums “dancing in my head”, I set about creating a little culinary tribute to The Nutcracker and inaugurating a new tradition in our family Christmas. I took as my inspiration the Divertissements in Act II, which follow the arrival of Clara/Maria and the Prince in the Kingdom of Sweets. These set-pieces contain some of the most recognisable tunes from the ballet and culminate in the comic arrival of Mother Ginger and her children. Mother Ginger’s large skirt is a nod to a famous candy tin, popular in Imperial Russia, in the shape of woman in a wide hoop skirt.

No culinary homage to The Nutcracker can even begin without the signature sugar plums.“Plum”in the language of the 19th century was synonymous with “paramount” or“best”and so a sugar plum is the queen of the sweets. In Balanchine’s day, these were most likely complex and syrupy bonbons: layers of sugar wrapped around an almond or a cardamom seed. A much more manageable and equally delicious local treat is a ball of dried fruit and nuts, steeped in liqueur and rolled in sugar. The Russian candy canes top off festive red velvet and candy cane cupcakes. And Mother Ginger makes her appearance in my favour-

ite Guinness gingerbread cupcakes, which are covered in tangy and tart tangerineflavoured icing, in line with more hip and contemporary Russian cake-flavour trends. This is a wonderful project to share with children, who generally find icing and decorating cupcakes an engaging activity in the lead-up to Christmas. My daughterVelvet, for example, is, not surprisingly, addicted to red velvet cupcakes and I’ve tried every recipe out there since they don’t sell it in a box in Russia. The most reliable and delicious version was one I discovered this year from Sally’s Baking Addiction. So crank up The Nutcracker, roll up your sleeves, and get baking.

Learn about Russian cuisine and culinary traditions with useful tips from our authors workshops from Delicious TV and recipes from The Soviet Diet Cookbook

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St Petersburg Sugar Plums Ingredients 250g of sweet dried plums; 150g of dried cherries; 150g of slivered almonds; 150g of candied ginger; 45ml of rum; 100g of granulated sugar; and 1/2 cup of turbinado sugar. Instructions 1. Combine all ingredients except the turbinado sugar into a food processor, fitted with a steel blade. Pulse mix until smooth. 2. Pour turbinado sugar onto a flat plate with a shallow lip. 3. Roll 1 tsp of the mixture into a smooth ball, then roll it in the turbinado sugar to coat it. 4. Place each "sugar plum" in a paper liner or candy wrapper. 5. Chill for two hours before serving.

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Grandfather Frost brings new hope for the New Year